Vintage books

Here’s a list of books that helped create California Serendipity. Sources for inspiration, quoted or leaned on, or just read with wonder. If you are interested in more information, send an e-mail to

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Books and media mentioned in the appendix of California Serendipity: To me, it is interesting when a book was originally written; therefore, and for first-edition aficionados, I give original publication information where found. In most cases though, there are more current or revised editions available, which are easy to find at the local bookstore.

Listed literature includes a short description where book title is not sufficiently self-explanatory.

People & history

  • The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots – Calvert Watkins; Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000.
  • Noticias de la California – Miguel Venegas; Viuda de M. Fernández, 1757.
  • Native Americans of California and Nevada – Jack d. Forbes; Naturegraph Publishers, 1982. (history of local tribes and their relations with the emigrants.)
  • Medieval Iberia: An Encyclopedia – E. Michael Gerli; Routledge, 2003. (history of Iberian kingdoms and empire.)
  • Las Sergas de Esplandián – García Ordóñez de Montalvo. Published in Sevilla in 1510. Translated by Edward Everett Hale for the Antiquarian Society, Atlantic Monthly, 1864.
  • De l’Amadís de Gaule et de son influence sur les moeurs et la littérature au XVIe et au XVIIe siècle – Eugène Baret; Auguste Durand, 1873. (history of Amadís de Gaule and his influence on literature.)
  • The Three Princes of Serendip – Elizabeth Jamison Hodges; Atheneum, 1964.
  • Serendipity and the Three Princes, from the Peregrinaggio of 1557 – Theodore G. Remer; University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.
  • The New Country: A Social History of the American Frontier 1776 – 1890 – Richard A. Bartlett; Oxford University Press, 1975 (history of the westward movement and everyday life in the 18th and 19th century.)
  • Memoirs of My Life – John Charles Frémont; Belford, Clarke & Co., 1887. (reprinted as:)
  • Narratives of Exploration and Adventure by John Charles Frémont – Allan Nevins; Longmans, Green & Co., 1956. (Reprint of the expeditionary text.)
  • The Expeditions of John Charles Frémont: Travels from 1838 to 1844 – Donald Jackson and Mary Lee Spence, University of Illinois Press, 1970. (Reprint of the first two expeditions.)
  • Kit Carson and the Wild Frontier – Ralph Moody; Random House, 1955.
  • The Pioneers Go West: To California by Covered Wagon – George Rippey Stewart; Random House, 1954. (eyewitness child story of an emigrant trek.)
  • Great Surveys of the American West – Richard A. Bartlett; University of Oklahoma Press, 1962. (history of exploration and mapping the West.)
  • Emigrant Trails: The Long Road into California – Marshall Fey, Joe King, Jack Lepisto; editor Stanley W. Paher, Western Trails Research Association, 2008. (history of emigrant routes into California; excerpts from participants’ journals.)
  • Ghost Trails to California – Thomas h. Hunt; American West Publishing Company, 1974. (history of emigrant routes to California and background.)
  • The Old Trails West – Ralph Moody; T. Y. Crowell Co., 1963. (Portrayals of early pioneers and their trails.)
  • Trail of the First Wagons over the High Sierra – Charles Graydon; The Patrice Press, 1986. (Trail details and history of the Donner Party.)
  • Patty Reed’s Doll: The Story of the Donner Party – Rachel Kelly Laurgaard; Tomato enterprises, 1989. (eyewitness report of the Donner Trek, as told by a child’s doll.)
  • Ordeal by Hunger – George R. Stewart; Henry Holt & Co., 1936. (history and accounts of the Donner trek.)
  • Pilgrims in the Desert: The Early History of the East Mojave Desert and the Baker, California Area – Le Hayes; Mojave River Valley Historical Ass., 2005.
  • What I Saw in California, Being the Journal of a Tour, by the Emigrant Route and South Pass of the Rocky Mountains, across the Continent of North America, the Great Desert Basin, and through California, in the Years 1846, 1847 – Edwin Bryant; D. Appleton & Co., 1848. (Journal of an emigrant trek.)
  • Trail to California: The Overland Journal of Vincent Geiger & Wakeman Bryarly – Yale University Press, 1945. (in 1849, Vincent Geiger & Dr. Wakeman Bryarly joined an organized emigrant group to the California gold fields.)
  • California As It Is, and As It May Be; or, A Guide to the Gold Region – Felix Paul Wierzbicki; Washington Bartlett, 1849. (one of the first published factual reports on California, its history, mining advices, and general situation.)
  • Three Years in California – John David Borthwick; William Blackwood and Sons, 1857. (Personal account of the early gold rush era.)
  • Afoot and Alone: A Walk from Sea to Sea by the Southern Route. Adventures and Observations in Southern California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, etc. – Stephen Powers; Columbian Book Co., 1872. (one of the last excursions on foot before the railroad connected the two sides.)
  • Roughin It – Mark Twain; American Publishing Co., 1872. (Semi-autobio-graphical report on Twain’s travels through the Wild West 1861-1867.)
  • Death Valley in ’49 – William Lewis Manly; Pacific Tree and Wine Co., 1894. (Autobiography incl. eyewitness report of the Death Valley drama.)
  • Death Valley & the Amargosa: A Land of Illusion – Richard E. Lingenfelter; University of California Press, 1986. (Account of the history of Death Valley, real characters and legends.)
  • The World Rushed in: The California Gold Rush Experience – J.S. Holliday; Simon and Schuster, 1981. (Comprehensive story about the California gold rush, based on stampeders’ journals and letters.)
  • Mines of the Eastern Sierra: The Pioneers, Their Mines & Stories – Mary Dedecker; La Siesta Press, 1966.
  • Mines of the Mojave – Ronald D. and Peggy J. Miller; Siesta Press, 1976. (history of mining in the Mojave desert.)
  • Picacho: Life and Death of a Great Gold Mining Camp – Peter Odens; Peter Odens Publ., 1973.
  • The Story of Bodie – Ella M. Cain; Fearon Publishers, 1956.
  • Small Town America: A Narrative History, 1620 to the Present – Richard Lingeman; Putnam, 1980. (history of America told through the developments of its small towns.)
  • Historic Spots in California – Mildred B. Hoover; Stanford University Press, 1966. (Comprehensive guide to the state’s historic sites incl. local museums.)
  • An American Idea, The Making of the National Parks – Kim Heacox; National Geographic Society, 2001. (The development of wilderness conscience and the formation of the National Park idea.)
  • Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West – Wallace Stegner; University of Nebraska Press, 1954. (exciting chronicle of Powell’s 1869 exploration of the Grand Canyon, describing his dramatic encounters and scientific insights into the challenges confronting the Western United States.)
  • Desert: The American Southwest – Ruth Kirk; Houghton Mifflin, 1973. (human and natural history in the Southwest.)
  • Desert Passages – Patricia Nelson Limerick; University of New Mexico Press, 1985. (The role of the desert in American history; exploring our changing relations and attitudes, interpreting contemporaries from Frémont to Abbey.)
  • Shavetails & Bell Sharps, The History of the U.S. Army Mule – Emmett M. Essin; University of Nebraska Press, 1997.
  • Land of Little Rain – Mary Austin; 1903. (Poetic essay on ranch life between the Sierras and the deserts.)
  • Sheep Rock – George Rippey Stewart; Random House, 1951. (Western desert novel.)
  • The Voice of the Desert – Joseph Wood Krutch; William Sloane Associates, 1955. (A naturalist’s view on life in the desert.)
  • Desert Solitaire – Edward Abbey; Dutton, 1977. (humorous collection of essays on life in the desert from the eyes of a seasonal park ranger.)
  • All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy; Alfred A. Knopf, 1992. (Cowboy- life novel, pt. 1. of the border Trilogy.)
  • The Crossing – Cormac McCarthy; Alfred A. Knopf, 1994. (pt. 2) Cities of the Plain– Cormac McCarthy; Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. (pt. 3)

Country & nature

  • A Natural History of California – Allan A. Schoenherr; University of California Press, 1992. (Comprehensive guide to the state’s ecological regions and landforms.)
  • An Island Called California – Elna Bakker; University of California Press, 1971. (ecological introduction to the state’s natural communities.)
  • The Sierra Club Guide to the Natural Areas of California – John Perry and Jane Greverus; Sierra Club books, 1983.
  • An Introduction to California Plant Life – Robert Ornduff; University of California Press, 1974.
  • A Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers – Theodore F. Niehaus; Houghton Mifflin, 1976.
  • A Field Guide to the Insects of America North of Mexico – Donald J. Borror and Richard E. White, Houghton Mifflin, 1970.
  • Adventuring in the California Desert – Lynne Foster; Sierra Club Books, 1987. (Guide to the deserts of the Southwest.)
  • The California Deserts – Edmund C. Jaeger; Stanford University Press, 1965. (Guide to natural history, flora, fauna, and history of economic utilization.)
  • Gathering the Desert – Gary Paul Nabhan; The Arizona Board of Regents, 1985. (human ecology and ethnobotany in the deserts of the Southwest.)
  • Wildlife of the Southwest Deserts – Jim Cornett; Nature Trails Press, 1975. (Guide to animal wildlife in the Southwest.)
  • Conversations with a Pocket Gopher and Other Outspoken Neighbors – Jack Schaefer; Capra Press, 1978. (Schaefer turned his interest from fictional characters (Shane, Monte Walsh) to a real hero, the old West’s hardest worker, the gopher snake, depicting the animals decisive role in the West.)
  • Desert Wild Flowers – Edmund C. Jaeger; Stanford University Press, 1979. Death Valley – Charles B. hunt; University of California Press, 1975. (Local geology, geography, ecology and archeology.)
  • Deepest Valley: Guide to Owens Valley and its Mountains, Lakes, Roadsides and Trails – Genny Schumacher; Wilderness Press, 1969.
  • Ecological Relationships of Bristlecone Pine – R.S. Beasley and J.O. Klemmedson; American Midland Naturalist, 1980.
  • A Sierra Club Naturalist’s Guide to the Sierra Nevada – Stephen Whitney; Sierra Club Books, 1979.
  • Andrew H. Grayson: The Audubon of the Pacific – Juliette Mouron Hood; Lancaster, PA, 1933.
  • Mono Lake Guide Book – David Gaines and the Mono Lake Committee; Kutsavi Books, 1981.
  • An Ecological Study of Mono Lake, California – David W. Winkler; University of California Press, 1977.
  • The Tahoe Sierra: A Natural History Guide to 100 Hikes in the Northern Sierra – Jeffrey P. Schaffer; Wilderness Press, 1975.
  • The Sagebrush Ocean – Stephen Trimble; University of Nevada Press, 1989. (natural history and accounts of the Great Basin desert.)

Travel & insight

  • Walden; or, Life in the Woods – Henry David Thoreau; Ticknor and Fields, 1854. (Account of Thoreau’s social ego-experience, retreating to a cabin in the woods for two years in order to separate from civilization; criticizing consumerism and emphasizing the importance of contact with nature, solitude and contemplation.) (see also footnote p.23)
  • Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes – Robert Luis Stevenson; Roberts Brothers, 1879. (hiking account of Stevenson’s travel through the French Cévennes in 1878.)
  • Steep Trails – John Muir; Houghton Mifflin, 1918. (Collection of Muir’s letters about travels in the West.)
  • Everett Ruess, A Vagabond for Beauty – W.L. Rusho; Gibbs Smith Publ., 1983. (biography of a teenage solitary hiker and poet, who was exploring the deserts and the high Sierra while pursuing his dream of oneness with nature.)
  • Look Homeward, Angel – Thomas Wolfe; Scribner, 1929. (novel about life and wanderlust.)
  • Of Time and The River – Thomas Wolfe; Scribner, 1935. (Sequel to Look Homeward, Angel.)
  • Hourglass in the Mojave – Ruth Forbes Sherry; Wagon & Star, 1941. (desert poetry.)
  • On the Road – John Kerouac; Viking Press, 1957. (beat generation road trip across America.)
  • Travels with Charley: In Search of America – John Steinbeck; Viking Press, 1962. (What-are-Americans-like travelogue.)
  • Desert Notes: Reflections on the Eyes of a Raven – Barry Holstun Lopez; Andrews and McMeel Publ., 1976. (Short essays on Lopez’ trip into the desert and its inspirational power.)
  • Blue Highways: A Journey into America – William Least Heat-Moon; Little, Brown & Co., 1982. (Autobiographical soul-searching road trip through small-town America.)
  • Teaching a Stone to Talk – Annie Dillard; Harper & Row, 1982. (Collection of essays on human-nature encounters and personal reflection.)
  • Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer; Villard books, 1996. (biography of Chris McCandless’, aka Alexander Supertramp, disputable ego-trip into the wilderness and his fate.)
  • Anatomy of Restlessness – Bruce Chatwin; Jonathan Cape Publ., 1997. (Collection of essays depicting Chatwin’s nomadic life; advocating that nature tells us to keep in motion.)
  • A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson; Broadway Books, 1998. (humorous hiking report of the Appalachian Trail and its surrounding sociology and ecology.)
  • Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert; Penguin, 2006. (Memoir about her travels around the world, encounters with fellow human beings and personal discoveries.)

More insight

  • Man: An Autobiography – George Rippey Stewart; Random House, 1946. (novel about the story of humanity.)
  • A Sand County Almanac – Aldo Leopold; Oxford University Press, 1949. (Collection of semi-philosophical essays developing the idea of a land ethic; substantiating the importance of wilderness experiences.)
  • Man in the Landscape, A Historic View of the Esthetics of Nature – Paul Shepard; Knopf Publishing, 1967. (exploring reasons and the roots for our attitudes towards nature; America’s identity and its special relation to wilderness.)
  • Wilderness and the American Mind – Roderick Frazier Nash; Yale University Press, 1967. (Study of America’s attitudes towards wilderness and reflection on society.)
  • Dreamtime, Concerning the Boundary between Wilderness and Civilization – Hans-Peter Duerr; Blackwell Publishers, 1985. (ethnological/ecopsychological approach to the relationship between humans and wilderness.)
  • The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology – Max Oelschlaeger; Yale University Press, 1991. (history of the evolution of wilderness in the human mind, based on Thoreau, Muir, Leopold, Snyder, and Jeffers.)
  • Sight & Sensibility, The Ecopsychology of Perception – Laura Sewell; Tarcher and Putnam, 1999. (about the importance of our relationship with nature in order to reawake sensitivity, attention, and imagination.)
  • The Voice of the Earth – Theodore Roszak; Phanes Press, 2001. (ecopsychology classic; holistic approach to the relationship between humans and the earth, criticizing the devaluation of the natural world; nature therapy; teleological reasoning.)

For background entertainment while writing, the online-stream of The Coast. KOZT-FM turned out to be the californiest possible diversion.
An inestimable source of both historical and current information has been the local NPR radio program (National Public Radio). Both stations are available as online streams,,

2012 MDHCA Logo letterheadPublications from the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association, Goffs.

  • Mojave Road Guide – An Adventure Through Time – Dennis G. Casebier; Tales of the Mojave Road Publ. Co., 1986.
  • Guide to the East Mojave Heritage Trail (4 editions) – Dennis G. Casebier; Tales of the Mojave Road Publ. Co., 1987.
  • Goffs & its Schoolhouse – Dennis G. Casebier; Tales of the Mojave Road Publ. Co., 1995.

For more literature or information on how to support the work of the association or participate in its heritage and land conservation program, contact: MdhCA · 37198 Lanfair Road, G-15 · Essex, CA 92332

or visit You will receive a complimentary issue of the Mojave Road Report.

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